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This is the blog for Sean Brennan and London After Midnight. For more information please see the LAM website at londonaftermidnight.com.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oil is Motivation for War; The War You Don't See; Fox 'News' Lies About Climate Change; WikiLeaks is GOOD; Tax Cuts for the Rich Kill Jobs; Ralph Nader; Cheney the Criminal; more

- Oil or Terrorism: Which Motivates U.S. Policy More? The protection of some of the world’s most virulent authoritarian regimes thus became integral to maintaining Anglo-U.S. geopolitical control of the world’s strategic hydrocarbon energy reserves. Our governments have willingly paid a high price for this access – the price of national security.

- FOXLEAKS: Fox Boss Ordered Staff to Cast Doubt On Climate Science In the midst of global climate change talks last December, a top Fox News official sent an email questioning the "veracity of climate change data" and ordering the network's journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

The directive, sent by Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, was issued less than 15 minutes after Fox correspondent Wendell Goler accurately reported on-air that the United Nations' World Meteorological Organization announced that 2000-2009 was "on track to be the warmest [decade] on record."

- Majority of One by Ralph Nader On Friday, December 10, 2010, Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent Socialist, of Vermont,  tore the covers off an oligarchic driven Congress and a concessionary President with eight-and-a-half hours of non-stop presentations of facts and figures and a plea for fairness and justice.

Obama has frittered away his comfortable majority in Congress on many accounts for two years. And millions of people and their children will be paying the bill for his failure to fight for them.

- Journalists Begin, Finally, to Stand Up in Defense of WikiLeaks and Freedom of Information While most US journalists have been slow to defend WikiLeaks-and some have been openly critical of the website's distribution of leaked US diplomatic cables-their Australian peers are pushing back against attempts to constrain freedom of information and the press.

- Nigeria Mulls $250 Million Deal to Drop Cheney Charges Nigeria has negotiated a 250 million dollar settlement deal that would see it drop charges against US ex-vice president Dick Cheney and others over a bribery scandal, an official said Tuesday.

- ...And Justice For Few Poor defendants on death row, immigrants in unfair deportation proceedings, torture victims, domestic violence survivors and victims of racial discrimination - all these groups are consistently being denied access to justice while those responsible for the abuses are protected, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union.

- Tax Cuts Create Jobs? Prove It ...the period between 2001 and 2004, when George W. Bush pushed through a series of tax cuts for investors and corporations in the name of creating jobs, actually saw some of the weakest job creation rates on record following a recession.

- Who is Better on Taxes, Republicans or Democrats? Democrats, Clearly A simple chart explains why.

- The Republicans' Fatal Misreading of FDR -- and How It Would Worsen The Depression It's almost forgotten now, but FDR ran for election promising a balanced budget and big spending cuts. By the time he assumed the Presidency, however, public protests against the economic collapse were so huge that he was forced to change course and launch his public spending push. The result? Unemployment began to slide down from its 25 per cent peak.
But then, in 1936, FDR wobbled. He listened to [Republicans] and slashed spending. Unemployment rose again - producing the spike in unemployment that [Republicans] now perversely cite as evidence that the New Deal didn't work. But the reality stands. When FDR spent, unemployment fell. When FDR cut back, unemployment rose.

Pilger: Wikileaks is Necessary 'Revolution in Journalism'
WikiLeaks, Web to Revolutionize Reporting, says Journalist and Filmmaker John Pilger
Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 by Reuters
by Mike Collett-White

LONDON - Revelations on the WikiLeaks website which have enraged governments around the world should force the traditional media to rely less on official sources, award-winning journalist John Pilger said.
[In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter, John Pilger, told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.]In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter, John Pilger, told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.
In an interview to discuss his film "The War You Don't See," the veteran Australian reporter told Reuters the internet, and more specifically WikiLeaks, would bring about a "revolution" in journalism which too often failed to do its job properly.

One reason the media did not challenge the U.S. and British governments' justification for going to war in Iraq in 2003, later shown to be misplaced, was their eagerness to believe the official version of events, Pilger argued.

He said the same was true of television coverage of the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, when British broadcasters appeared willing only to use Israeli video rather than trawling the internet for alternative footage.

"That mindset that only authority can really determine the 'truth' on the news, that's a form of embedding that really now has to change," said Pilger, who has covered conflicts in Vietnam and Cambodia, written books and made several acclaimed documentaries.
"There's no question about the pressure on it to change coming from the internet and coming from WikiLeaks -- it will change," he added in the interview ahead of Tuesday evening's broadcast of his new film.

"That is the canker in all of this, it's the compulsion to quote, not necessarily believing the authority source. But then once you quote it and you put it out on the wires or you broadcast it, it takes on a sort of mantle of fact and that's where the whole teaching of journalism is wrong.

"Authority has its place, but the skepticism about authority must be ingrained in people."
In The War You Don't See, Pilger interviews leading broadcast journalists including Dan Rather and Rageh Omaar, who agree that journalists failed in their basic duties during the build-up to the Iraq conflict.

It seeks to highlight how British television reporters based in London were quick to accept what they were being told by officials in Westminster, which did not necessarily reflect what was happening on the ground in Iraq.

OTHER SIDE OF STORY

The film shows how independent journalists occasionally provided evidence that countered the official version, while WikiLeaks was a relatively new source of sometimes disturbing information with the potential to embarrass the authorities.

The documentary opens with extended clips from classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff. WikiLeaks released the footage in April.

Pilger also interviews WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, remanded in custody in Britain last week after Sweden issued a European arrest warrant.

Assange jokes that since it is officially wrong to retain information and to destroy it, his only choice was to publish.

Pilger, one of several prominent figures who offered a surety to secure bail for Assange, praised the recent publication of secret U.S. embassy documents which have attracted global media coverage.

"I think the WikiLeaks disclosures have been like watching a great parade of wonderful scoops," Pilger said in the interview.

"(It is) basic rich journalism that is telling people how the world works. It's not just telling them what a prime minister said. It's not framing it in how governments or other vested interests want us to think about something.

"It's giving us the story in their words. I think it's a revolution in journalism."
The War You Don't see is aired on ITV on Tuesday evening and is being screened at select theatres across Britain.

Sean

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Leaked Fox News Emails Prove Fox Lies; Ralph Nader Accurately Describes Obama; Tax Cuts for the Super-Rich; WikiLeaks

- Nader: I am Looking for Someone to Challenge Obama in 2012 Perennial third-party candidate Ralph Nader predicted on Wednesday that President Obama's tax deal with Republicans will earn him a primary challenge in 2012. .... He said Obama's decision to allow tax-cut extensions for the wealthy in the lame-duck deal betrays the progressives who supported his campaign in 2008 and called the president a "con man."

- Obama's Huge Would-Be Gift To The Scions Of The Super-Rich The Obama concession [to the republicans] that's getting most of the attention in the media is the one that would extend the Bush income tax cuts even for households making over $250,000 a year. That's a gift to your average millionaire of $139,000 a year for the next two years.

- House Dems Reject Obama's Tax Deal; Pelosi Promises a Fight for a Fairer Plan After he brokered a deal with congressional Republicans to extend Bush-era tax cuts and establish a sweeping estate-tax exemption in return for maintaining unemployment benefits, President Obama essentially told congressional Democrats: Take it or leave it. House Democrats have decided to leave it.

- 'Hacktivists' Warn Over More Action The loose-knit group, known as Anonymous, has disrupted sites belonging to finance giants including MasterCard and Visa by bombarding their websites with millions of bogus visits during a campaign called "Operation Payback".
Their blog post vowing to fight any organisation which supports censorship came as WikiLeaks' payment processor, DataCell, said it was preparing to take legal action against the credit card companies over their refusal to process donations.

- WikiLeaks Cables: Shell's Grip on Nigerian State Revealed The oil giant Shell claimed it had inserted staff into all the main ministries of the Nigerian government, giving it access to politicians' every move in the oil-rich Niger Delta, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.

- On Behalf of Afghan Familes, Journalist Testifies before Congress Jeremy Scahill Testifies Before Congress on America's Secret Wars

- FLASHBACK: Fox News emails not the first leak indicating effort to slant news rightward Today, Media Matters released emails obtained from a Fox News source, showing Washington managing editor Bill Sammon directing staff not to use the phrase "public option" when discussing health care reform legislation. ... It is not the first time that Media Matters obtained leaked Fox News documents that paint a picture of network management attempting to slant the news toward the right (and often succeeding.)

LEAKED EMAIL: Fox Boss Caught Slanting News Reporting
by Ben Dimiero
Published December 09, 2010 at MediaMatters.org

At the height of the health care reform debate last fall, Bill Sammon, Fox News' controversial Washington managing editor, sent a memo directing his network's journalists not to use the phrase "public option."

Instead, Sammon wrote, Fox's reporters should use "government option" and similar phrases -- wording that a top Republican pollster had recommended in order to turn public opinion against the Democrats' reform efforts.

Journalists on the network's flagship news program, Special Report with Bret Baier, appear to have followed Sammon's directive in reporting on health care reform that evening.
Sources familiar with the situation in Fox's Washington bureau have told Media Matters that Sammon uses his position as managing editor to "slant" Fox's supposedly neutral news coverage to the right. Sammon's "government option" email is the clearest evidence yet that Sammon is aggressively pushing Fox's reporting to the right -- in this case by issuing written orders to his staff.

As far back as March 2009, Fox personalities had sporadically referred to the "government option."

Two months prior to Sammon's 2009 memo, Republican pollster Frank Luntz appeared on Sean Hannity's August 18 Fox News program. Luntz scolded Hannity for referring to the "public option" and encouraged Hannity to use "government option" instead.

Luntz argued that "if you call it a 'public option,' the American people are split," but that "if you call it the 'government option,' the public is overwhelmingly against it." Luntz explained that the program would be "sponsored by the government" and falsely claimed that it would also be "paid for by the government."

"You know what," Hannity replied, "it's a great point, and from now on, I'm going to call it the government option."

On October 26, 2009, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the inclusion of a public insurance option that states could opt out of in the Senate's health care bill.
That night, Special Report used "public" and "government" interchangeably when describing the public option provision.

Anchor Bret Baier referred to "a so-called public option"; the "public option"; "government-provided insurance coverage"; "this government-run insurance option"; the "healthcare public option"; and "the government-run option, the public option." Correspondent Shannon Bream referred to "a government-run public option"; "a public option"; "a government-run option"; and "the public option."

The next morning, October 27, Sammon sent an email to the staffs of Special Report, Fox News Sunday, and FoxNews.com, as well as to other reporters and producers at the network. The subject line read: "friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the 'public option.' "

Sammon instructed staff to refer on air to "government-run health insurance," the "government option," "the public option, which is the government-run plan," or -- when "necessary" -- "the so-called public option":
From: Sammon, Bill
Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2009 8:23 AM
To: 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Subject: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"
1) Please use the term "government-run health insurance" or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible.
2) When it is necessary to use the term "public option" (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation's lexicon), use the qualifier "so-called," as in "the so-called public option."
3) Here's another way to phrase it: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
4) When newsmakers and sources use the term "public option" in our stories, there's not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
Fox's senior vice president for news, Michael Clemente, soon replied. He thanked Sammon for his email and said that he preferred Fox staffers use Sammon's third phrasing: "The public option, which is the government-run plan."
From: Clemente, Michael
To: Sammon, Bill; 054 -FNSunday; 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 069 -Politics; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 036 -FOX.WHU; 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers
Sent: Tue Oct 27 08:45:29 2009
Subject: RE: friendly reminder: let's not slip back into calling it the "public option"

Thank you Bill
#3 on your list is the preferred way to say it, write it, use it.
Michael Clemente
SVP-News
212.XXX.XXXX
Sammon's email appears to have had an impact. On the October 27 Special Report -- unlike on the previous night's broadcast -- Fox journalists made no references to the "public option" without using versions of the pre-approved qualifiers outlined in Sammon's and Clemente's emails.

Reporting on health care reform that night, Baier referenced the public option three times. In each instance, he referred to it as "government-run health insurance" or a "government-run health insurance option" -- precisely echoing the first wording choice laid out by Sammon.

On the same show, correspondent Jim Angle referred to "a government insurance plan, the so-called public option"; "a government insurance option"; and "a government insurance plan."

The wording of Sammon's email -- a "friendly reminder" not to "slip back into calling it the 'public option' " -- suggests that someone in the Fox News chain of command had previously issued similar instructions.

And indeed, the issue had surfaced before in Fox's newscasts.

On the September 3, 2009, Special Report -- three weeks after Luntz told Hannity to call it the "government option" -- Baier discussed the potential inclusion of a public option during the show's nightly commentary segment.

During the segment -- after Baier himself had referred to a "public option" -- NPR's Mara Liasson also referred several times to the "public option," prompting Baier to interrupt her to clarify that it is the "government-run option of health insurance."

As the conversation continued, The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer and The Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes both used "public option." When Liasson mentioned a "triggered public option," Baier again interrupted, asking, "Should we say 'government option,' by the way?"
"Government option, OK," replied Liasson.
"Everybody gets it," Baier explained.
On-screen text during the segment also used "Government Option."

Watch:


Fox executives regularly defend the network by claiming that the right-wing propaganda on Hannity and its other opinion shows is entirely separate from its news programming, which they insist is objective. But Sammon's email gives credence to allegations that news from Fox's Washington bureau is being deliberately distorted to benefit conservatives and the Republican Party.

In October, Media Matters reported that sources with knowledge of the situation had raised concerns about the direction of Fox's Washington bureau under Sammon, who took over as managing editor in February 2009:
"[There is] more pressure from Sammon to slant news to the right or to tell people how to report news, doing it in a more brutish way," one source with knowledge of the situation said. "A lot of the reporters are conservative and are glad to pick up news. But there is a point at which it is no longer reporting, but distorting things."
"[Former Fox News Washington managing editor] Brit Hume was also encouraging people to look at things with other points of view. Brit was smart to see that a lot of mainstream media ignore certain points of view," the source added. "That was a smart and effective way to build the Fox brand.
"But if you come in to say, 'ignore points of view and ignore facts,' then you are straying away from being a legitimate news reporter."
Asked about the first source's allegation, a second source with knowledge of the situation said, "I wouldn't disagree with it from this standpoint: Brit was the 800-pound gorilla who could pick up the phone and say he will not do that. Bill Sammon is no 800-pound gorilla within the organization. He doesn't have that much sway."
The second source also said of Sammon, "He is not going to buck the bosses in New York. The D.C. bureau chief [Brian Boughton] and managing editor in D.C. [Sammon] are not as powerful as they once were. They are not going to raise objections and fight hard. They will just pass on the message."
Since then, a Fox source has told Media Matters:
"People are allowed to have opinions when they espouse opinions. But when news is being tampered with, you have to worry. I keep hearing things from staffers about Sammon."
"I think Sammon comes up with this himself. It takes a conservative slant; it is his news judgment. If things are being classed as news that aren't, that is a problem."
Media Matters contacted Sammon, Clemente, and two Fox spokespeople for comment and we have not received a response.

Update:
Sammon spoke to The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz about the leaked email and reportedly told him:
Sammon said in an interview that the term "public option" "is a vague, bland, undescriptive phrase," and that after all, "who would be against a public park?" The phrase "government-run plan," he said, is "a more neutral term," and was used just last week by a New York Times columnist.
"I have no idea what the Republicans were pushing or not. It's simply an accurate, fair, objective term."

Sean

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks and Why It's a Good Thing; Obama Halted Bush Torture Probe; Tea Party Hypocrisy; Climate Change Cost Billions Their Homes; Palin Homophobia; more!

- Obama and Republicans Worked Together to Kill Bush Torture Probe Read!

- Amnesia as a Way of Life: WikiLeaks Amid the "Careless People" If one could cut through the thicket of false premises, logical fallacies, false dichotomies, arrays of strawmen, general flutter-headed palaver, and out and out paranoid fantasy marshaled by the caretakers and apologists of the present system, I would ask this question -- why is it you are driven with such vehemence to defend and attempt to preserve the current order? As it is, it seems the nation is being held together with hydrogenated fat, wheat gluten, payday loans, Tyvek®, particleboard, and the provisional binding of homespun bigotry and official duplicity.

- Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy; “To destroy this invisible government” Assange has a clearly articulated vision for how Wikileaks’ activities will “carry us through the mire of politically distorted language, and into a position of clarity,” a strategy for how exposing secrets will ultimately impede the production of future secrets. The point of Wikileaks — as Assange argues — is simply to make Wikileaks unnecessary.

- Anti-Spending Tea Party Caucus Members Took Over $1 Billion In Earmarks Congressional earmarks have been one of the primary targets  of the tea party, ... But it appears that tea party’s self-proclaimed representatives in Washington haven’t been putting their money where their mouths are. Hotline On Call reports today that members of House Tea Party Caucus, founded by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to “represent the views of our constituents,” requested over $1 billion in earmarks during the last fiscal year...

- The defense budget has grown so obscenely bloated...



- Climate Change Will Cost a Billion People Their Homes Devastating changes to sea levels, rainfall, water supplies, weather systems and crop yields are increasingly likely before the end of the century, scientists will warn tomorrow.

- Afghan War Hero is Put Down by Mistake Target, a tawny-coloured mongrel bitch, defied an Afghan suicide bomber, gunshot wounds and an attempted hit-and-run, but fate finally caught up with her in middle America, where an animal control agent put her to sleep in a heartbreaking case of mistaken identity.

- Willow Palin (Sarah's Daughter) Facebook Posts: Homophobic Slurs & More (PHOTOS) Willow Palin, the 16-year-old daughter of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, wrote multiple Facebook posts containing homophobic slurs such as "faggot" on Sunday night [after classmates posted bad reviews of her mother's new TV show].

- While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.




The Moral Standards of WikiLeaks Critics
By Glenn Greenwald
Published Dec 1 2010 on Salon.com

Time's Joe Klein writes this about the WikiLeaks disclosures:

I am tremendously concernced [sic] about the puerile eruptions of Julian Assange. . . . If a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail because of a leaked cable, this entire, anarchic exercise in "freedom" stands as a human disaster. Assange is a criminal. He's the one who should be in jail.
Do you have that principle down?  If "a single foreign national is rounded up and put in jail" because of the WikiLeaks disclosure -- even a "single one" -- then the entire WikiLeaks enterprise is proven to be a "disaster" and "Assange is a criminal" who "should be in jail."  That's quite a rigorous moral standard.  So let's apply it elsewhere:
What about the most destructive "anarchic exercise in 'freedom'" the planet has known for at least a generation:  the "human disaster" known as the attack on Iraq, which Klein supported?  That didn't result in the imprisonment of "a single foreign national," but rather the deaths of more than 100,000 innocent human beings, the displacement of millions more, and the destruction of a country of 26 million people.  Are those who supported that "anarchic exercise in 'freedom'" -- or at least those responsible for its execution -- also "criminals who should be in jail"?

How about the multiple journalists and other human beings whom the U.S. Government imprisoned (and continues to imprison) for years without charges  -- and tortured -- including many whom the Government knew were completely innocent, while Klein assured the world that wasn't happening?  How about those responsible for the war in Afghanistan (which Klein supports) with its checkpoint shootings of an "amazing number" of innocent Afghans and civilian slaughtering air strikes, or the use of cluster bombs in Yemen, or the civilian killing drones in Pakistan?  Are those responsible for the sky-high corpses of innocent people from these actions also "criminals who should be in jail"?

I'm not singling out Klein here; his commentary is merely illustrative of what I'm finding truly stunning about the increasingly bloodthirsty two-minute hate session aimed at Julian Assange, also known as the new Osama bin Laden.  The ringleaders of this hate ritual are advocates of -- and in some cases directly responsible for -- the world's deadliest and most lawless actions of the last decade.  And they're demanding Assange's imprisonment, or his blood, in service of a Government that has perpetrated all of these abuses and, more so, to preserve a Wall of Secrecy which has enabled them.  To accomplish that, they're actually advocating -- somehow with a straight face -- the theory that if a single innocent person is harmed by these disclosures, then it proves that Assange and WikiLeaks are evil monsters who deserve the worst fates one can conjure, all while they devote themselves to protecting and defending a secrecy regime that spawns at least as much human suffering and disaster as any single other force in the world.  That is what the secrecy regime of the permanent National Security State has spawned.

Meanwhile, in the real world (as opposed to the world of speculation, fantasy, and fear-mongering) there is no evidence -- zero -- that the WikiLeaks disclosures have harmed a single person.  As McClatchy reported, they have exercised increasing levels of caution to protect innocent people.  Even Robert Gates disdained hysterical warnings about the damage caused as "significantly overwrought."  But look at what WikiLeaks has revealed to the world:

We viscerally saw the grotesque realities of our war in Iraq with the Apache attack video on innocent civilians and journalists in Baghdad -- and their small children -- as they desperately scurried for cover.  We recently learned that the U.S. government adopted a formal policy of refusing to investigate the systematic human rights abuses of our new Iraqi client state, all of which took place under our deliberately blind eye.  We learned of 15,000 additional civilian deaths caused by the war in Iraq that we didn't know of before.  We learned -- as documented by The Washington Post's former Baghdad Bureau Chief -- how clear, deliberate and extensive were the lies of top Bush officials about that war as it was unfolding:  "Thanks to WikiLeaks, though, I now know the extent to which top American leaders lied, knowingly, to the American public," she wrote.

In this latest WikiLeaks release -- probably the least informative of them all, at least so far -- we learned a great deal as well.  Juan Cole today details the 10 most important revelations about the Middle East.  Scott Horton examines the revelation that the State Department pressured and bullied Germany out of criminally investigating the CIA's kidnapping of one of their citizens who turned out to be completely innocent.  The head of the Bank of England got caught interfering in British politics to induce harsher austerity measures in violation of his duty to remain apolitical and removed from the political process, a scandal resulting in calls for his resignation.  British officials, while pretending to conduct a sweeping investigation into the Iraq War, were privately pledging to protect Bush officials from embarrassing disclosures.  Hillary Clinton's State Department ordered U.N. diplomats to collect passwords, emails, and biometric data in order to spy on top U.N. officials and others, likely in violation of the Vienna Treaty of 1961 (see Articles 27 and 30; and, believe me, I know:  it's just "law," nothing any Serious person believes should constrain our great leaders).

Do WikiLeaks critics believe it'd be best if all that were kept secret, if we remained ignorant of it, if the world's most powerful factions could continue to hide things like that?  Apparently.  When Joe Klein and his media comrades calling for Assange's head start uncovering even a fraction of secret government conduct this important, then they'll have credibility to complain about WikiLeaks' "excessive commitment to disclosure."  But that will never happen.

One could respond that it's good that we know these specific things, but not other things WikiLeaks has released.  That's all well and good; as I've said several times, there are reasonable concerns about some specific disclosures here.  But in the real world, this ideal, perfectly calibrated subversion of the secrecy regime doesn't exist.  WikiLeaks is it.  We have occasional investigative probes of isolated government secrets coming from establishment media outlets (the illegal NSA program, the CIA black sites, the Pentagon propaganda program), along with transparency groups such as the ACLU, CCR, EPIC and EFF valiantly battling through protracted litigation to uncover secrets.  But nothing comes close to the blows WikiLeaks has struck in undermining that regime.

The real-world alternative to the current iteration of WikiLeaks is not The Perfect Wikileaks that makes perfect judgments about what should and should not be disclosed, but rather, the ongoing, essentially unchallenged hegemony of the permanent National Security State, for which secrecy is the first article of faith and prime weapon.  I want again to really encourage everyone to read this great analysis by The Economist's Democracy in America, which includes this:

I suspect that there is no scheme of government oversight that will not eventually come under the indirect control of the generals, spies, and foreign-service officers it is meant to oversee. Organisations such as WikiLeaks, which are philosophically opposed to state secrecy and which operate as much as is possible outside the global nation-state system, may be the best we can hope for in the way of promoting the climate of transparency and accountability necessary for authentically liberal democracy. Some folks ask, "Who elected Julian Assange?" The answer is nobody did, which is, ironically, why WikiLeaks is able to improve the quality of our democracy. Of course, those jealously protective of the privileges of unaccountable state power will tell us that people will die if we can read their email, but so what? Different people, maybe more people, will die if we can't.
The last decade, by itself, leaves no doubt about the truth of that last sentence.  And Matt Yglesias is right that while diplomacy can be hindered without secrecy, one must also consider "how the ability to keep secrets can hinder diplomacy" (incidentally:  one of the more Orwellian aspects of this week's discussion has been the constant use of the word "diplomacy" to impugn what WikiLeaks did, creating some Wizard of Oz fantasy whereby the Pentagon is the Bad Witch of the U.S. Government [thus justifying leaks about war] while the State Department is the Good Witch [thus rendering these leaks awful]:  that's absurd, as they are merely arms of the same entity, both devoted to the same ends, ones which are often nefarious, and State Department officials are just as susceptible as Pentagon officials to abusive conduct when operating in the dark).

But Matt's other point merits even more attention.  He's certainly right when he says that "for a third time in a row, a WikiLeaks document dump has conclusively demonstrated that an awful lot of US government confidentiality is basically about nothing," but I'd quibble with his next observation:

There’s no scandal here and there’s no legitimate state secret. It’s just routine for the work done by public servants and public expense in the name of the public to be kept semi-hidden from the public for decades.
It is a "scandal" when the Government conceals things it is doing without any legitimate basis for that secrecy.  Each and every document that is revealed by WikiLeaks which has been improperly classified -- whether because it's innocuous or because it is designed to hide wrongdoing -- is itself an improper act, a serious abuse of government secrecy powers.  Because we're supposed to have an open government -- a democracy --  everything the Government does is presumptively public, and can be legitimately concealed only with compelling justifications.   That's not just some lofty, abstract theory; it's central to having anything resembling "consent of the governed."

But we have completely abandoned that principle; we've reversed it.  Now, everything the Government does is presumptively secret; only the most ceremonial and empty gestures are made public.  That abuse of secrecy powers is vast, deliberate, pervasive, dangerous and destructive.  That's the abuse that WikiLeaks is devoted to destroying, and which its harshest critics -- whether intended or not -- are helping to preserve.  There are people who eagerly want that secrecy regime to continue:  namely, (a) Washington politicians, Permanent State functionaries, and media figures whose status, power and sense of self-importance are established by their access and devotion to that world of secrecy, and (b) those who actually believe that -- despite (or because of) all the above acts -- the U.S. Government somehow uses this extreme secrecy for the Good.  Having surveyed the vast suffering and violence they have wreaked behind that wall, those are exactly the people whom WikiLeaks is devoted to undermining.

* * * * *

On the issue of the Interpol arrest warrant issued yesterday for Assange's arrest:  I think it's deeply irresponsible either to assume his guilt or to assume his innocence until the case plays out.   I genuinely have no opinion of the validity of those allegations, but what I do know -- as John Cole notes -- is this:  as soon as Scott Ritter began telling the truth about Iraqi WMDs, he was publicly smeared with allegations of sexual improprieties.  As soon as Eliot Spitzer began posing a real threat to Wall Street criminals, a massive and strange federal investigation was launched over nothing more than routine acts of consensual adult prostitution, ending his career (and the threat he posed to oligarchs).  And now, the day after Julian Assange is responsible for one of the largest leaks in history, an arrest warrant issues that sharply curtails his movement and makes his detention highly likely.  It's unreasonable to view that pattern as evidence that the allegations are part of some conspiracy -- I genuinely do not believe or disbelieve that -- but, particularly in light of that pattern, it's most definitely unreasonable to assume that he's guilty of anything without having those allegations tested and then proven in court.

Finally, as I noted last night:  I was on Canada's CBC last tonight talking about these issues; it can be seen here.  I'll also be on MSNBC this morning, at roughly 10:00 a.m., on the same topic.

UPDATE:  The notion that one crime doesn't excuse another has absolutely nothing to do with anything I wrote; it's a complete nonsequitur, merely the standard claim of those who want to propound moral standards for others that they not only refuse to apply to themselves, but violate with far greater frequency and severity than those they're condemning.

UPDATE II:  This cartoonist (and Professor of History) summarized several of the key points perfectly:

Sean